Grateful on the Santa Fe River
We've just returned home from an awesome 3-day weekend getaway. Every year for the past 4 years we have been visiting the springs here in Florida, near Gainesville. This year we stayed in Fort White at a gem I found on AirBnB called Bowman's River Landing. It's a beautiful property that sits on the Santa Fe River. There's a house and several cabins that can be rented, on the property, we stayed in the house with my cousins, and my aunt and uncle stayed in a cabin right next to the house. We quickly found out that because of the recent rain, the springs nearby were experiencing what the locals call a 'brown out'. It's basically when the rivers are too high, they flood the springs and the crystal clear blue water that I've been jonesing to float my body in, was now brown. So we decided to take a kayak trip down the Santa Fe River. Our AirBnB host would drive us up the river with kayaks, drop us off, and we would leisurely float back down the river propelled by the current. Sounds lovely and relaxing, right? Well, here's the deal. I really, really, really, wanted to enjoy the blue springs. I also really wanted my cousins and aunt and uncle to experience the springs in all their glory. They had never been and since we frequent the area, I felt a duty to represent! So when I found out the springs were a no-go, I had less than a great attitude. My attitude was shitty. I was experiencing my own 'brown out'. I eventually rallied, though I spent a good part of the morning not enjoying the beauty I was surrounded by or my family.
Fast-forward to about 3 hours into what would roughly be a 4 & 1/2 hour kayak trip, my attitude had cleared up nicely and everyone was enjoying the trip. It was really hot though. I'm a pale (porcelain doll) gal, and I needed to get some cool relief. My aunt and I decided we were going to float in the river alongside our kayaks but I didn't want to just roll out of my kayak because I had dry items on it and I knew they would get wet or worse lost to the river. So I spotted a nearby dock with stairs behind it (private property but I was hot and had zero f*cks to give) and I steered my way there. What happened next was fast and weird and scary as f*ck.
I came in (hot) parallel to the dock with my kayak and rammed into the side of it. The impact wasn't actually bad so I didn't realize I was in trouble...yet. The current was strong and it pushed the edge of the kayak up underneath the dock and I was stuck. I knew then that I had to bail so I began to roll out the other side and that's when shit got real. The water quickly flooded the kayak, it was being pulled under the dock by the current and I was going with it! I fell in, quickly emerged and grabbed the side of the dock. I was literally clinging to dock trying to get to the front side where I knew I would be able to then just let go and be carried to safety by the current. My cousin appeared out of nowhere. He was wrapped around the front pylon like a spider monkey and was reaching for me. I tried stretching my leg out to him but I wasn't blessed with model legs so it wasn't happening. I remember saying "just give me a minute" as I tried to pause for a few seconds to regain my strength and continue my attempt to move to the front of the dock. Somehow I finally got there, I was able to let go and the current took me past the dock. That's when I felt the fatigue set in. I saw another set of stairs (to a private property) coming up quickly and I knew that if I didn't get there I wouldn't be able to make it to the next set. I recall thinking that this is how people who know how to swim drown. I told myself that I couldn't go under because I was very aware that I may not come back up if I did. Somewhere I found the strength to swim the short distance across the current to the stairs. I was safe.
We still had another hour or so on the river before we got back to the house. I was a little shaky, nauseous, and exhausted but I actually enjoyed the rest of the trip. How could I NOT?! When we finally made it back to the house, I showered and decided it was time for a nap. Anxiety crept in but I wasn't about to let it take over. I was too grateful. I was going to continue enjoying my beautiful surroundings and my family!